Members of Afghan girls robotics team arrive in Mexico
Four members of an Afghan robotics spoke to the press after fleeing their Taliban-controlled country for Mexico PEDRO PARDO AFP

Five members of a girls robotics team in Afghanistan were welcomed to Mexico Tuesday after fleeing their Taliban-controlled country.

The team members, none of whom were identified for security reasons, were received at the Mexico City airport by Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard, and four of them gave a press conference shortly after landing.

"They have not only saved our lives, but they have also saved our dreams," one of the group said of host Mexico.

"Our stories will not sadly end because of the Taliban," she added through a translator, while her face was hidden by a Covid-19 mask.

"Under this regime, we women will face difficulties...that is why we are grateful to be here," she said.

Mexico has granted the girls and one of their partners humanitarian visas valid for up to 180 days with the right to renew or apply for a change of status in the future.

"We want to tell them from the bottom of our hearts that they are home," said Ebrard.

Part of a larger group of high-achieving high school girls known "Afghan Dreamers", the robotics team consists of about 20 members, most of whom are still in their teens.

The girls made headlines in 2017 after being denied visas to take part in a robotics competition in Washington -- before then-president Donald Trump intervened and they were allowed to travel.

Last year, they worked to build a low-cost medical ventilator from car parts hoping to boost hospital equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Taliban's seizure of power a little over one week ago has fueled a chaotic mass exodus as many Afghans fear a repeat of the brutal interpretation of Islamic law implemented during the militants' 1996-2001 rule.

During that earlier regime, girls were excluded from school, women confined to their homes and offenses punishable by public stonings and executions.

Though the Taliban have vowed a softer, more inclusive regime this time around, offering assurances of women's rights within what they consider Islamic bounds, many Afghans are skeptical.

The United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said Tuesday she had received credible reports that the Taliban were already restricting women, and warned them not to cross that "red line".

© 2021 AFP